Friday, March 21, 2008

Jesus as our "scapegoat"

The origins of the term "scapegoat" come from Leviticus 16 and the sacrifice at the heart of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

16:6-10 provides a su
mmary of the offerings: 6's bull for the high priest's sin offering and then 9's two goats-- one for God and their sin offering and one for the picture we infer from the goat sent into the wilderness.

As an aside, it's interesting and noteworthy that atonement must first be made for Aaron. Roy Honeycutt has this to say:
"No minister can lead people where he has not been. No person can speak of the forgiveness of sins whose own sins have not been forgiven...The Day of Atonement began with Aaron, not with the people." (Of course, Christ had no such need. Compare Hebrews 5:1-3 and 7:26-28.)

In 16:20-22, the scapegoat's role is presented in more detail. They
were to "lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites-- all their sins-- and put them on the goat's head". (This parallels the principle of substitutionary atonement seen throughout the sacrificial system-- but highlighted here for this one special day.) Then the goat was sent into the desert and verse 22 says that "the goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place". (Interestingly, some people believe that Christ was baptized on Day of Atonement and then went to the desert.)

Goat #1 symbolizes forgiveness and its blood price; goat #2-- the scapegoat-- symbolizes repentance, removal of sin and guilt. Of course, in Christian theology, the ordering of the two goats is important.

One last thought: we improperly apply the concept of scapegoat-- ironically, by blame-shifting. Of those who scapegoat, M. Scott Peck says: "They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection...In other words, [they] attack others instead of facing their own failures. Spiritual growth requires the acknowledgment of one's need to grow..."

Again, passages in Hebrews are key. I would suggest 9:12-14,25-28; 10:1-4,11-14,19-23.

Have a great Good Friday!


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